Movie Review: Fear Street: 1978

It’s been a week since the release of part 1, and so Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy is back with its middle installment. This film opens with the survivors of the last movie sneaking into the house of Ms. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the only survivor of the massacre at Camp Nightwing that took place back in the Summer of 1978, with the intention of finding out how she made it out and hopefully discover a way of ending the violent curse on the town of Shadyside. While initially hesitant to let anyone into her carefully secured home, she ultimately relents, and begins telling the teens about what happened all those years ago.

And now the movie takes us back to that fateful Summer, where the story remains for the majority of its runtime. Ziggy and Cindy Berman (Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd) are about as opposite as two sisters can be, with the first constantly getting into trouble at camp (although not without good cause) and the other taking her role as counselor very seriously and doing her best to model good behavior. Aside from Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland), who will go on to be the Police chief portrayed in the first movie, and to a lesser degree Cindy’s former friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins), none of the other campers are given more than cardboard cutout personalities, but those four are filled in well enough to garner genuine concern for their well-being. On the night of the annual camp color war, in which the attendees from Shadyside and Sunnyvale square off for a game of Capture the Flag, Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye), seemingly snaps and begins offing campers with an axe, though we in the audience know that’s it’s actually the long-dead local witch Sarah Fier taking control of his actions.

This installment doesn’t have to do as much world-building as the first, and so can devote more time to just being a semi-straightforward horror movie, and yet it somehow feels slightly less satisfying. It is fun to see this genre return to the idea of a Summer camp slasher, which feels like a setting that hasn’t been used much since its 1980s heyday (do people not go to Summer camp anymore?), but it’s largely lacking the affection for and sense of fun about both the place and the genre that other movies like Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th brought to the screen. It feels like it takes an unusually large amount of time before anything really interesting happens, and when it does, the majority of it seems to occur with very little build-up and largely offscreen, thus dulling some of the possible suspense. As with the first movie though there are still some interesting ideas, especially in the tunnels underneath the camp, and the finale “chase” does get the heart pumping. Likewise, the excellent cast really help keep the viewer engaged. Here’s hoping that Part 3 makes it all seem worthwhile. ★★★

Rated R for bloody horror violence, sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language throughout.

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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